Monday, December 29, 2014

Slight Flaws

I recently bought a timer so that when I do laundry in my apartment building I can know when the time comes to take clothes from the washer and put them into the drier, then when to go take them out of the drier. I chose a streamlined, small, simple-looking, and inexpensive device from my local Walgreens. Three elementary buttons: hour, minute, and Start/Stop, with a small display window for the digital numbers. The simple manual (were it not simple, I wouldn’t have bothered to read it knowing I wouldn’t understand a word) told me it would beep 10 minutes and five minutes before the timer reached 00:00.

On it’s first two uses, I realized the “beep” was so soft that unless I was really paying attention or had the timer up to my ear I couldn’t hear it. I do not consider walking around with a timer to my ear to be an ideal situation. But by concentrating very, very hard, and being sure the timer was no further than a foot away, I managed, provided there were no overriding exterior sound distractions, like my cat breathing.

So we reached a sort of accommodation, the timer and I. Until yesterday when the sound of the beeping either stopped completely or dropped below the range audible to humans. So unless I sit there and stare at it, waiting for it to reach 00:00, I have no idea when the time has run out. But the little digital numbers do an admirable job of counting down the seconds…unless I have forgotten to watch very carefully when I hit “START.” If I don’t watch for it to start, it doesn’t. So not only do I know when the time has run out, I have no idea of how long it has been since I hit “START.”

My personal grand prize for slight flaws built into modern machines goes without question to a sleek, ultra-modern, efficient-looking streamlined, gleaming-aluminum ice cream bar dispenser I came across at a shopping mall. The attractiveness of the machine was enhanced by eye-grabbing design elements hinting of the delectable pleasures that awaited within. There were a set of sleek-looking buttons from which you made your selection, above which was a slot for inserting your money. All in all, a beautiful piece of modern technology. The only flaw I was able to determine was that the designers had apparently neglected to put in any way for you to get the ice cream out of the machine once you’d paid for it. The front, sides, and I assume the back, which was flush against the wall, was seamlessly smooth, with absolutely no doors or openings of any kind. After several minutes of searching, I gave up and walked away, wondering rather cynically if there really was any ice cream—or anything else—inside.

I can’t help but see malicious deliberation in a great many flaws, and I consider them specifically designed with me in mind. To me, all instruction manuals are deliberately flawed in that I have yet to get more than two paragraphs into one without being utterly confused. “Some Assembly Required” manuals and kits are classics of insidious flaws: not only are the directions impossible to follow, but I am convinced the manufacturers deliberately either leave one piece out, or add one simply for the perverse glee it brings them.

Some “flaws” are both subtle and truly brilliant: take the bottle of cough medicine on which the label says: “If unsatisfied with this product for any reason, simply return the unopened bottle for a full refund.” Excuse me?

A currently running commercial for something called “Zarelto” states, “Do not take if you are allergic to Zarelto.” Really? And the teeny-tiny print accompanying a product guaranteed to cure toenail fungus says, “Apply to affected area for 48 weeks.” 48 weeks?

Ah, well, nothing is perfect.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lost and Found

Over the course of our lives, friends come and go. We change, they change; bonds which connected us break or slowly dissolve. Most of the friends of our lives fade into the distance of memory, and the longer we are separated, the greater the distance.

Reconnecting with…or even encountering…former friends can range from casually-exchanged greetings to, in some cases, the reestablishing of the friendship.

I was thinking of such instances in my own life, and several stand out.

In 1948, while in Junior High, I met Larry, the first “love of my life.” He was beautiful and we carried on a sporadic but torrid teen-age-hormonal affair for a year or two. We drifted apart, as is pretty common at that stage of one’s life, but the torch I held for him never went out. Many years later, I ran into him in a gay bar. He was still beautiful, but we were by then different people. I felt no real connection nor, obviously, did he. We never saw one another again.

In college, I shared my first romantic kiss with a to-me breathtakingly beautiful young man named John who became my dorm roommate. Poor John was excruciatingly conflicted about being gay, and our affair was short-lived. Sometime in the late ‘60s I ran into him at Los Angeles’ Farmer’s Market. The years had not calmed him and I had the distinct impression he was embarrassed to see me.

While in the Navy I became wildly infatuated with a shipmate, Lloyd, who was irredeemably straight. I thought of him many times after returning to civilian life and tried to locate him several times over the years. Finally, a few years ago, I was able to locate him and phoned him. He had married shortly after his service and has two grown daughters. We exchanged addresses and I wrote him. He did not reply, and I closed the door.

Larry, John, and Lloyd were, in the overall scheme of things, simply warm memories but passing fancies. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to have several other, more significant reconnections.

When I started at a new school in the third grade, one of my classmates was a boy named Dan Sable, who went on to attend the same college as I. We were not terribly close, but friends nonetheless. About ten years ago, now, he came across my name on Facebook and wrote me. We instantly re-established our friendship as though there had not been a 60-year-plus pause, and we remain in regular contact.

Through Dan, I got back in touch with another school-and-college-years friend, Ted Bacino, whom I’d met in Cub Scouts and with whom I attended Junior high and my first two years of college. Again, we picked up our friendship in mid-sentence. Ted now lives in Palm Springs, and we met up a few years ago while we were both in New York. It was as though we’d seen each other the day before, and we still keep in regular touch. 

Through Ted, I reconnected with another member of our college “gang,” Effie Foulis. Since my college years were among the happiest of my life, being able to have direct links to those halcyon days is indescribably comforting.

But one of my major reconnections has been with Diane Kopp, with whom I worked during my earliest days in Chicago. I had lost track with her when I moved to California and had no way to contact her (women almost inevitably change their last name upon getting married). So when I received a Facebook message from her after nearly 60 years, I was elated. She knew, and is therefore also a bridge to, my now-dead dear friend and one-time partner Norm. Again, the lapse in time meant nothing, and we now get together every couple of months. 

For someone to whom links to the past provide invaluable comfort, having the opportunity to re-establish ties—whether those opportunities result in a continuation of or a resolution to a once-important friendship—is one of life’s deepest pleasures. I hope you may have had, or will have, similar experiences.

Memories are the yule-logs of the soul.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Matter of Distance

The continual volcanic eruption which is my mind is forever spewing out chunks of thought. Usually, there are so many of them that I can't concentrate on any particular one as they fall around me like rain. However, a random thought will frequently score a direct hit and remain with me long enough for me to deal with it.

It suddenly occurred to me how much of our existence is based on our distance from events and people. The closer we are, the more involved we tend to be and the more the events effect us. 100,000 people killed in a tsunami halfway around the world does not have nearly the emotional effect as personally witnessing a fatal car crash.

In our increasingly mobile society, friends and family do not always remain in close proximity. Until the late 19th century, the vast majority of people had never travelled further than 20 miles from their home in their entire lives.

The physical distance created when close friends move apart too often leads to a gradual cooling of the relationship—with fewer and fewer immediately-common ties to refer to, the contacts grow less frequent, until eventually the only exchanges are at birthdays or Christmas, if that. While there are notable exceptions, distance in time compounded by distance in space cannot help but cool the fires of friendship. I've made frequent attempts to locate people from my past...service friends, for example...only to run into a brick wall. It is as though they never existed; all that remain are warm and bittersweet-from-their-loss memories. I've recently been extremely lucky to reestablish contact with three good friends, one a young woman (well, she was young when I first met her) with whom I worked shortly after I first moved to Chicago, and two from my college years. I'd totally lost touch with all of them for more than more than 50 years, which is proof that, the glowing coals of true friendship can be reignited. 

Facts may not suffer much from physical distance, but most certainly fall victim to the distance of time. The more time that passes between an event and the present, the less clearly they are seen. Once razor-sharp mental images blur and become obscure as more and more time passes. Probably the majority of the facts of our early lives are all but totally lost to time. I am again blessed to have at least two years of my life—the time I was in service—down in writing, and to which I can refer whenever I question something that happened during that period. Even now I am surprised, in re-reading the letters written to my parents while I was in the navy, to discover that what I remember "clearly" is not the way things really happened.

Returning to Chicago after 40 years provided more evidence of how our minds see things differently than history or the calendar. I had convinced myself, somehow, that our—my ex-partner Norm and my—apartment on Wellington was near Clark and Division. It wasn't. It was near Clark and Diversey. Of course, over the years, physical changes, not merely within ourselves, altered our perceptions. Landmarks I remember clearly from the early 60's are now long gone. The tennis courts across from my first Chicago apartment, coincidentally on the same street and within six blocks of where I now live are now a parking structure.

This blurring/fading of memory, while subtly changing many of the good memories, also serves to soften the pain of the bad. Perversely, for me, so many of my fondest memories are accompanied, and occasionally overshadowed, by an overpowering sense of loss and longing. I often say that I "ache" for things I no longer have, and it is literally true. I ache for lost experiences almost as intently as I ache for lost friends and family, and they are of course inexorably linked.

So I guess the best thing for any of us to do is to try to stay keen to what is happening now, fully appreciate each moment and the people we share the moments with for what they are, and worry about the fading of their memory when the time comes.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Monday, December 15, 2014

Cliffhangers

“Cliffhangers” are a time-honored tradition of luring an audience back for the next episode of a series. It all stems from the one of the original movie serials, The Perils of Pauline in 1914 in which each 12-to-15-minute episode ended in the heroine’s being placed in deadly peril. Audiences couldn’t wait to get back to the theater for the next episode. Movie serials were extremely popular through the 1940s and into the 1950s. Even today, big-budget “serial” movies tend to end with some form of cliffhanger to excite viewers for the next film.

Serials were a staple of my early-years moviegoing. In my hometown, Rockford, Illinois, the State Theater showed Saturday matinee films aimed at kids…generally westerns…which always also featured a serial. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Gene Autry, etc. Each episode, regardless of genre, would end with the equivalent of the hero/heroine bound to a chair with a ticking time bomb near by counting down the seconds to explosion. The camera would zoom in on the hero/heroine’s understandably concerned face, the diminishing number of seconds remaining—always less than 10—then a distracting shot of, say, the outside of the building, and then….BOOM!: the building dissolves in flame and debris. End of episode; come back next week, which of course you would, to find that at the last second the hero/heroine manages to free him/herself from the bonds, locate a trap door in the floor leading to a tunnel to safety, and get safely away before the bomb goes off. It never failed.

Movie serials were cranked out with little regard for niceties like logic or production values. An example that I still remember after all these years was an episode of a serial called, I think Nyoka, Queen of the Jungle. In it, Nyoka, our heroine—who, though ostensibly living her entire life in the jungle, always managed to look like she just stepped out out the beauty parlor—has been captured by the always-dastardly villain, trussed up, and thrown into a raging river just above a thundering waterfall. The next week we see Nyoka stepping out of the water below the falls, untethered, absolutely dry and not a single hair out of place.

Though major studios—Columbia, Universal and the quintessential B-movie king, Republic Pictures—produced serials, none cared much about logic or production values; that wasn’t the purpose of serials. Their purpose was to drag you back to the theater week after week, and they succeeded admirably from 1911 thru 1953, when Blazing the Overland Trail was the last serial from a major studio.

The tradition continues to this day with some serialized major productions: The Hobbit, Star Wars, etc. And those that don’t have specific cliffhangers always add “previews” of the next film in the series.

Television has picked up the gauntlet, especially now that most series are broken into two blocks…fall and spring, and are not above resorting to the Perils of Pauline tradition of having the hero/heroine in a seemingly impossible-to-escape disaster.

A classic example is the recently-aired cliffhanger for the popular show, Arrow. Our hero, for reasons too long and complex to go into here, finds him shirtless on an icy, snow-blown mountaintop facing an equally shirtless nemesis. Why are they shirtless? With bodies like that, how could they not be? Anyway, the duel rages until Arrow is run through with a sword and, falling to his knees, is pushed off the edge of the cliff to his seemingly certain death. I was a bit surprised the villain didn’t put a lit stick of dynamite in his mouth just to emphasize the point that his fate is sealed. So is it “goodbye, Arrow”? Uh…stay tuned.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fun and Logic


I really enjoy a good, rousing everything-blowing-up-and-falling-down-and-people-running-around-in-total-panic/confusion “end of the world as we know it" disaster film, or an imagination-stretching outer-space yarn—as long as everything ends on a note of hope. I consider them perfect examples of how two elements...logic and fun...can either join together or be totally at odds. A classic “popcorn" movie lets everyone just turn their mind off, their eyes on, and shovel it in with both hands while totally ignoring the sound of logic banging at the door. 

Fun frequently requires "the willing suspension of disbelief," but, like a rubber band, it can only be stretched so far before it snaps. Each individual has his/her own tensile strength for belief—the point at which the band breaks—and I'm pretty lucky that mine will go quite a ways. I think that's largely due to the fact that I've never totally given up on being a child. 

A child's imagination is almost totally disassociated from logic. Life is a fascinating game that's never been played before. As logic encroaches upon imagination and begins to take on the role of teacher, one's choice of games changes to meld both fun and logic. Chess, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, dominos, most card and board games are both fun and involve varying degrees of logic. For many adults—me included—it’s often because things are not logical that makes them so much fun. 

While logic itself can't be fun, it can also be maddening. I tend to find many logic games frustrating simply because I pride myself on being logical, and I still can't get them. Mathematics, for example is pure logic, yet any game or puzzle involving anything beyond the "If Billy has three apples..." level utterly eludes me.

Likewise, the relationship between "fun" and "humor" is a most interesting one, and very difficult to explain...at least for me. While they are certainly not mutually exclusive, logic and humor, like logic and fun—of which humor is of course a part—can often be at odds, simply because what makes things funny often lies in the flaunting of logic. If we are led to believe or expect one thing, and something totally unexpected happens it can be hysterically funny. There is a certain shock value in humor.

And one can have fun without humor being part of the equation. "Enjoyment" is one of the first words in the Thesaurus's definition of "fun." Star Trek's Mr. Spock isn't noted for his sense of humor, but it's obvious he enjoys what he's doing. I suspect the same is true of many of those we call "workaholics," those who work with their hands, and artists. They do what they do because they love doing it. To them, work is both fun and logical, if they can't really see themselves doing anything else and wouldn't particularly want to if they could. I don't consider writing to be work, even though I spend six hours or so a day at it, but I most certainly do consider it fun.                                                 

The capacity for both logic and fun are essential components of human existence. The degree to which we utilize them, and in what proportion, varies from person to person. One can, conceivably, go through life without fun, but it is impossible to function as a human being without logic. I know, I know; most politicians, evangelicals of all stripes, hate mongers and bigots appear to be notable exceptions. But whether they can truly qualify as being human is a question best left for another blog.

My unsolicited advice is to try to apply at least some level of logic to whatever you do, to whatever you read or hear. It needn't be deeply analytical, and it really isn't all that hard. Just always ask the question "does this really make any sense?" The brain should be more than just something stuffed in the space between the ears to keep the wind from blowing through. Thinking can really be fun. Wouldn't it be nice if more people tried it?


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Monday, December 08, 2014

"I Hear the Mermen Singing..."

We can’t change reality, but we can change our perception of it. I’ve been doing it since I was a child and it has served me very well. Our bodies are bound by the laws of physics and time and we are all but powerless to change them. But our minds are not subject to those laws. It is our mind which makes us who we are. How we perceive our lives and the world around us is largely up to us. We may be confined in the cage of reality, but we are free to “decorate” it as we choose. When it comes down to it, perception is simply imagination, and imagination can make the world a far more tolerable place.

Those like me, who have never really understood how or why the world works the way it does and who therefore feels inferior because of it, altering our perceptions to fill in the gaps left by reality makes life, in our minds at least, easier to deal with.

I tend to look on life the same way I view books and movies—concentrating on those aspects with which I am comfortable and ignoring the rest. I refuse to read books or watch movies that I know do not have at least a ray of hope at the end. Even Schindler’s List, which was agonizing to watch, ended in hope.

Though you, I, are each only one of billions, we are totally separate, unique individuals. And each of us, surrounded by billions of others like us, goes through life alone. We learn whatever coping skills we develop through observation of our fellow humans; by reading and watching and listening to their individual experiences. We can easily be overwhelmed by the sensations of being hopelessly, helplessly outnumbered.

Life is a board game I play without having all the pieces, but I do the very best I can with those I have. I am gay (I know…you never suspected) living in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. I am not comfortable in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. So in my mind, the world is overwhelmingly homosexual. Every attractive man on the street is, in my mind, gay. Whether he is or not is totally irrelevant, since the odds of my having the opportunity to find out for sure are pretty close to astronomical unless I’m in a predominantly gay area. So what’s the harm?

And that phrase, “so what’s the harm,” pretty much sums up my entire philosophy of perceiving things the way I wish to perceive them.

And I do reach certain reluctant accommodations with reality. The reality of time, having “aged me out” of active participation in the gay world, I no longer feel comfortable…or welcome…even there. I think of my favorite line from Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: I hear the mermen singing, each to each. I do not think they sing for me.

And yes, I changed the gender. What’s the harm, if it gives me pleasure? 

While one can learn of the world in many ways, it is only our own personal experiences and perceptions which matters in the end.


Dorien’s blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Mantras and Acorns

Odd how something can be sitting quietly in some dimly-lit and dusty corner of your mind for years without giving it a conscious thought. It wasn't until this morning that I was conscious of a word my mind had been repeating in the softest of whispers for I don't know how long. And it occurred to me that this single word was in fact a mantra which to a large degree rules my life. The word is accomplish. It's with me every waking hour, just below the surface of my consciousness, and I suspect in my dreams as well: accomplish. It probably would be helpful if it were modified by specifics, but it never is, and I guess that's part of the point: it isn't that I accomplish something specific, but that I accomplish something.

Since my skills are limited largely to putting my thoughts down on paper (ok, on the computer screen), it's why, I realize, that I feel I must write. Write something. Every single day. It's as though my time of existence in this world is a gigantic acorn tree, with each moment of my life an acorn. And I am one small squirrel, trying desperately to store away as many of those acorns as I can, while I can. It is why, when I don't write every single day, I feel guilty; like I've robbed myself of time which, once passed, is gone and lost forever—all those acorns lost. Had I worked diligently rather than done nothing, I could have used those non-productive seconds, minutes, and hours to store away who-knows-how-many more acorns. 

It is why I cannot spend hours at coffee or lunch with friends—my definition of accomplish does not include coffee or lunch. Unfortunately it also does not include a great many things in which I realize I should be taking pleasure, like just sitting somewhere enjoying my surroundings, or reading. (The act of reading is always accompanied by the awareness that in reading the words—the accomplishments—of others, I am losing time which could/should be spent recording as many of my own thoughts and experiences as I possibly can. And the irony is not lost on me that I am so busy recording my life that I don't have time to fully savor living it.

I know, too, that I will never—and never possibly could—accomplish everything I would like to accomplish, to write all the books I would like to write, or post all the blogs I'd like to post, or see all the places I would so like to see, or spend time with all the people—even those I already know, let alone everyone I would like to meet—I wish I could spend time with. So that means I must—we all must—establish some sort of list of priorities of what we wish to do with the time available to us. Not an easy task, and not unlike trying to fit a gallon of milk into a one-quart container.

That other people do not feel this need does not make me feel superior to them—just, yet again, different from them. They obviously feel neither the need nor the desire for constant self-reflection. Most of them have other people into whom they channel their time, efforts and thoughts and are too busy living their life to think much about leaving a record of it.

And just this instant, I flashed, as is my wont, on the TV show "Hoarders," about people who, for whatever reason, so cram their homes with things they are unable/unwilling to get rid of that their homes, and their lives, become uninhabitable. Stacks and mounds and piles of...things...to which they compulsively continue to add. At times I suspect the house of my mind is like one of the homes featured on the program, except that instead of magazines and newspapers and porcelain dolls and never-worn clothes and battered lamp shades, my mind is crammed with memories and thoughts and speculations and questions. 

I would imagine hoarders consider that they are accomplishing something by hoarding; that no one else can figure out what that something is is beside the point. I tell myself that I am not a hoarder of past memories on the grounds that I freely share them with anyone who expresses even the slightest interest (and, at times, I realize, even with those who really have no interest but are simply too polite to ignore me). The problem is that, after I've shown them my mountainous stacks of acorns, the acorns are still there. 

Hey, that's a pretty profound thought! Another acorn! I think I can squeeze it in over there, on top of that stack of memories of all the cars I've owned in my life.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Doll House

I frequently start these blogs with only a general idea of a theme, and just let my fingers take over without much conscious direction. This one is a bit different in that I am not sure what approach to take with it. Writing of memories is always a slippery slope, threatening to slide into the deep sense of longing and loss that so many people experience during the holidays. So I’ll try to avoid it. We shall see.

Memories are based not on specific incidents alone, but everything that led up to them. I awoke this morning thinking of my doll house, and what led up to it, and to the special place it holds in my heart.

I was tempted to say that I was a strange child until I realized that being strange is part of being a child. When I was around six or seven, I announced to my parents that I wanted a doll house for Christmas. I really did. I really, really did. My father, of course, adamantly refused to even consider such a thing. He probably already suspected I would grow up to be gay, and wanted to discourage any overt signs of femininity in his son. 

He did not realize that I wanted a doll house not because I related it with anything at all to do with girls, but simply because it was an extension of my very active fantasy life. I wanted a doll house filled with doll-house furniture so that I could then have imaginary fights in the house and knock over all the furniture.

My family was what they used to call “lower middle class.” Both my parents worked  hard at full-time jobs all their lives. I had no idea at the time, of course, just how hard they worked and what they sacrificed to provide for me. I can never recall ever having to go without something I really needed, and I almost always got what I asked for for Christmas. 

A doll house, however, even if my father had approved, would have been an expensive gift. So, with my dad refusing to allow my mom to buy me one, she made me one…from an old wooden orange crate. There were only two rooms—orange crates had a center divider—and the furniture she was able to find was far out of proper proportion to the “rooms.” I don’t recall now what else she did to make an orange crate into a house, but she did her best, and I do hope I was properly appreciative—though, being a child who wanted a “real” doll house, I may not have been. But the thing was, I wanted a doll house and my mother got me one.

A slight pause between paragraphs while I forced myself to step back from the slippery slope and shift my focus from sorrow for her loss to unfathomably deep gratitude that I had her…that I had both my parents…in my life at all. 

All memories are part of who we are, and the holiday season seems especially rich in memories. The mind is drawn to them like iron filings to a magnet. Mine are filled with Christmas parties and family get togethers, good friends and laughter; the smell of pine needles; bubble-light Christmas ornaments; exchanging gifts—and being as excited to see the reactions of those to whom I’d given them as I was to open my own; Dad’s Tom & Jerrys; the every-Christmas jar of olives from Aunt Thyra; the smell of her Estee Lauder talcum powder…they are and will always be part of my life, just as your memories are a part of your own life. And I hope, when you reflect on your own memories, you can view them not with sorrow of loss but with warmth and love for having had them at all.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanatophobia












What? You know what "thanatophobia" means and you're still here? And what the hell are we talking about death for today? It’s Thanksgiving! Could there possibly be two less compatible topics? But the fact is that the greatest thing we can possibly give thanks for today and every day is…being alive. Taking a moment to realize that we won’t always be should only increase our gratitude!

The very subject of death any day of the year sends 99% of the population mentally heading for the hills. Of all the astonishing number of fears afflicting mankind, surely the fear of death is far ahead of whatever might be in second place.

We go to great lengths to throw a sheet over the elephant in the room. Uncle Charlie didn't die, he "passed away," or "passed over." Uh-huh. Our grotesque funeral rituals--painting and primping Uncle Charlie's corpse so those passing by his open coffin can pretend he's just taking a nap--are a case in point.  I love the lines from Oklahoma's "Pore Jud Is Daid": "Poor Jud is dead,/poor Jud Fry is dead;/he's layin' there so peaceful and serene..../He looks like he's asleep;/it's a shame that he won't keep,/but it's summer and we're runnin' out of ice."

I find it fascinating that thanatophobia covers both the fear of death and the fear of dying, and to me, they are two quite separate things. I'm not afraid of being dead, but I am more than concerned by the process of passage between the two. Though it is impossible to know, I’m quite sure that most people are as unaware of crossing the actual line between life and death as they are aware of crossing the line between being awake and asleep. Except for those relative few who experience a sudden trauma resulting in their death and are conscious of what is happening up to that very instant, most people first lapse into a coma. Few, I suspect, experience real fear.

I know that, for myself, the "fear of death" lies primarily in the reluctance to give up life...to imagine the world going on without me, and most specifically the thought of all the wonderful things I will never get to see or do once I am dead: all of which is counterbalanced by the simple fact that once I'm dead, I won't be aware of what I'm missing. I've never considered this to be morbid; quite the contrary. There is a wonderfully calming sense of peace in wandering through a cemetery, reading tombstones and thinking of those who lie beneath them. Try it sometime, if you don't already understand what I'm saying.

I am firmly convinced that organized religion came about as a cultural reaction to our fear of death. The idea of a heaven and a hell (the latter created largely to keep the living in line) and the concept of an afterlife ("Oh, don't worry: when you die you will move on through the Pearly Gates and live forever.") may be comforting in theory, but crumble like a waters-edge sand castles at high tide. Far, far, too many questions and far, far too few answers. Logic, so vital to our culture, civilization, and human existence, utterly vanishes.

And it has always struck me as wonderfully...well, perverse...that those who so strongly proclaim the glories of heaven very seldom seem to be in any hurry to get there.

As a total romantic, I would, truly and with every fiber of my being, love to believe that there is a heaven. I would also truly like to believe in a hell, for there are a large number of hate-mongers and bigots I sincerely believe richly deserve to suffer the flames of hell throughout eternity for their cruelty to their fellow humans. But I simply cannot believe, no matter how hard I try.

I always remember a discussion I had with a friend on the subject many years ago. As to heaven and hell, he said, "I believe that if, at the moment of death, you can look back on a good life, that is heaven. If you can't, that is hell.”

But for right now, I am truly thankful for being alive.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).




Monday, November 24, 2014

Moments and Times

Each of us has indelible memories of events in our life which stand apart from all the others, and which shape and mold not only how we view the world, but who we are as individual human beings.

I was thinking today of the moments and times in my life that I consider to have had the deepest and most lasting effects on me. In my mind's eye, I became like a gold miner in a rushing stream, swishing memories around in a mental sieve, and carefully picking out the ones which remain. I hope you won't mind my sharing some of them with you. And while they are indeed mine and not yours, I hope you might see why I chose them.
1) Hearing, while eating dinner with my folks when I was around four or five, the ringing of the bell on my tricycle, which I'd left on the sidewalk, realizing someone was stealing it, and my father—who had not heard the bell—refusing to allow me to leave the table to go save it. I'm sorry to say I think it negatively affected my entire relationship with him for most of the rest of his life.

2) Being asked by a stranger, at around the age of five, why I was singing Christmas carols in July. For some reason I was humiliated and I look on it as the moment when my tendency toward shyness turned to stone and put a wall between me and being able to express my emotions freely.

3) Attending the funeral of my beloved Uncle Buck in 1953. I had never before experienced such wrenching, unbearable grief.

4) As a Naval Aviation Cadet drinking beer with a NavCad friend and eating pizza at a little bar off Pensacola Beach while the Everly Brothers' "Unchained Melody" played on the jukebox.

5) Soaring alone in a huge valley surrounded by clouds, doing acrobatics and looking down at the green patchwork quilt of the earth far below.

6) Diving off a quay in Cannes into the crystal-clear Mediterranean with Marc, Michele, Gunter, and Joachim as part—though I did not realize it until later—of one of the happiest and most memorable weeks of my life.

7) Driving with my then-partner (the word "lover" has fallen out of fashion in the gay community, I fear) Norm back to Chicago from my parents' cottage in my new, bright red Ford Sprint convertible, watching from the corner of my eye as Norm studiously rummaged through a large bag of potato chips, finally pulling out the perfect chip, and handing it to me.

8) Being awakened at 6:15 on February 9, 1970, by the deep, ominous and absolutely unmistakable rumbling of an approaching earthquake.

9) Driving my mother back to the hospital from which she had just been released earlier in the day, after subsequently suffering a minor stroke which left her only able to point to things and say "What's that?" I was in anguish, and she reached over and patted my hand. I still cry when I think of that.

10) Leaving the theater after viewing Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake for the ninth time and suddenly realizing that my obsession with it was that, to my mind, I was the Prince and Ray, the love of my life, was the Swan—goodness and sweetness and kindness when sober, and incomprehensibly cruel when under the influence of alcohol, which eventually killed him.

11) The true sense of shock and sadness I experience every single time I look into a mirror or accidentally see myself in a reflective surface.

These are only a few of the many, many memorable moments of just one life out of billions. I know you have your own, and I hope you join me in the appreciation—hard though that word is to use with some experiences and memories—of each and every one of them. Gather all of yours together, then step back to get a better perspective, and what you see is...you.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rules to Live By















I am nothing if not a strict adherent to the set of rules I have painstakingly established for myself throughout my life. I fully acknowledge they may not work for everyone, but they are my rules applicable only to myself.
First and foremost among these: Anything worth trying is only worth trying twice. If it does not work the way I want/fully expect it to by the second try, I give up. I know most people go along with the old "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" nonsense, but not I. This is a ridiculous premise fostered, I suspect, by cardiac physicians who make huge fortunes treating the resulting apoplexy induced by the frustration of trying and trying and trying and failing miserably every single time. I have learned  through long, hard experience that if something that has not worked by the second time I've tried it, it's not going to work. Ever. And by throwing my hands in the air and screaming "F**K IT" after my second attempt, I am spared the mounting frustration and fury of trying it a third and fourth and seventy-fifth time, each and every one of which I know to the depth of my being will turn out exactly the same way as the first. 

Secondly, time is an infinitely precious commodity not to be wasted by thinking before acting or speaking. I call this the "knee-jerk" response. There is little point in reading an entire e-mail, letter, or article if I disapprove of what’s in the first paragraph. That any question may very well be answered or the point addressed two paragraphs further on is beside the point. It should have been answered/addressed before it arose, and I am not responsible for the poor planning of others. React first and immediately is my motto. There is plenty of time for regret later.

Never bother trying to remember names, or dates, or numbers. They can always be gone back to and checked again if and as often as necessary--a point proven over and over and over again, sometimes up to ten times on one name or set of numbers. They're always there...somewhere. Going back time after time is much easier than going to the bother of remembering them.

Housecleaning is vastly overrated. Quentin Crisp's profound observation that dust never gets any thicker after three years is a good one to live by. Living alone is a plus in this regard. There is no point in washing dishes as long as there is still one clean plate, knife, fork, spoon, cup or glass remaining. When they've been used, then do all the dishes at once. Making the bed is totally pointless, unless you're expecting company or hoping the people from House Beautiful might stop by for a photo shoot.

Never pass up the opportunity for self-deprecation. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, with everyone just waiting to pounce on your every flaw and failing. By constantly running yourself down, you beat them to the punch and let them know you are perfectly well aware of what a loser you are.

Organization of any sort is a huge waste of time and never works. "A place for everything, and everything in its place" is laughably unrealistic. And just think of the hour upon hour of fun looking for car keys or glasses or billfolds or cell phones provides. And there is no need. When I set my glasses or keys down, I know exactly where they are and, sure enough, when I finally find them again, they are exactly where I left them.

Never make lists. Chances are excellent that if you do make one, you won't be able to find it when you want it, or you're going to leave several important things off. So why bother? Grocery shopping, for example, is much more fun when you go to the store specifically for a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, and a loaf of bread and end up coming home with a ton of things you hadn't intended to buy, but without the milk, eggs, and bread. This only provides you with the opportunity to return to the store soon and buy still more wondrous things you hadn't thought to put on your list.

There's that old saw that "Rules are made to be broken," but if you adhere strictly to those rules outlined above, I can guarantee you that the danger of breaking them will never be a problem.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land
















I was born to a long line of heterosexuals, going back to Adam and Eve. I was raised and nurtured by heterosexuals whom I loved deeply, and have lived among heterosexuals every day of my life. And yet I have never understood them, or felt I really belonged in their world—understandable, I think, when I was constantly bombarded with messages which made crystal clear that homosexuals are beneath contempt, damned to burn forever in the flames of hell, and definitely less than human.

It is often said that one is more than one’s sexual orientation, and while I readily agree that being homosexual involves far more than the sex act, my being gay is and always has been a fundamental part of who I am, and has influenced every aspect of my personality and my dealings and interactions with other people. I am who I am because I am homosexual. This doesn’t mean that I see being gay as superior to being straight; I honestly think of us as being simply two variations on a theme…like oranges and grapefruit are simply two varieties of citrus.

I’ve heard heterosexuals ask, “Why do gays make such a fuss over this Gay Pride thing? Heterosexuals don’t celebrate being heterosexual!” No, they don’t. Because they don’t have to. They’re the vast majority and directly or indirectly they never let gays forget it. Gays are proud not so much of the fact of being gay as having managed to survive the discrimination and hostility of the majority. No one who is not a member of a persecuted minority can possibly fully understand. 

I must hasten to say I have never experienced the violence so often and still suffered by gays, nor have I been the target of much overt prejudice from “straights.” (I find it interesting that while heterosexuals have a wide litany of epithets for gays, the only term of approbation I can think of that gays use against straights is “breeders.”)

All my life I have stood in awe of how African Americans/blacks/negroes—choose the term of political correctness you prefer—possibly could have endured what they have endured for centuries. It is totally beyond my comprehension. It’s impossible and pointless to “compare” the sufferings of blacks, jews, and gays. On the one hand, gays and jews have the “advantage” that at least most cannot immediately be spotted in a crowd. On the other hand, simply being black or jewish in the United States was never a codified crime.

As far as I know, I am the only homosexual in my family, though for some reason I suspect that my mother’s uncle, Peter, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 20 shortly after the turn of the 20th century, may have been gay. Sadly he did not live long enough to confirm or deny my suspicion.

I’ve said often I was truly blessed with the family I have. My mother’s side of the family, the Fearns, always instinctively knew I was gay, and their love and support has been unconditional. My father’s side of the family defines the word “dysfunctional” and I was never really close to them. My father, who also knew I was gay before I had a word for it, almost came to blows with his half-sister’s husband for suggesting that I was a faggot.

I think a great many gays share my disillusion with the world as it is, and seek reassurance and comfort where they can find it. Gays are “known” to love musicals, for example. Is it any surprise? Musicals, books, and movies represent an escape from the harshness of reality, and I am not the only gay man to take shelter there. I am, in fact, firmly convinced that I became a writer as a way of countering reality. If I didn’t and don’t care for the world into which I was born and in which I live, I could and do create my own worlds.  

Though it has taken far too long in coming, we are currently in an accelerating state of profound social change, as heterosexuals increasingly if slowly acknowledge our basic human rights and recognizing us if not as equals, then as oranges to their grapefruits.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Learning Curve

I know, I know, I too often despair (and one of the things about which I despair most is the mounting evidence that I'm turning into a grumpy old man), but let's face it…there's a lot to despair about.

Remember courtesy? Good, old-fashioned common courtesy? "Thank you" and "You're welcome" and "After you," and "Can I help you with that?" You still run into it occasionally, but it does seem in distressingly short supply. Rudeness and insensitivity and ME seem to be the norm in today's society.

We learn from what we see, and take our cues as to how to react to others from that.

 The commercials we're exposed to 18 minutes out of every hour we watch TV foster these norms. What lessons are we...or more importantly our children...supposed to learn from the pain reliever commercial where a woman is putting six boxes of one brand into her shopping basket while a voiceover tells her she can get the same effect from one box of the sponsor's brand. And what does she do? She picks up the sponsor's product, puts her basket with the obviously inferior product down on the floor in the middle of the aisle, and walks away! (Don't bother putting the other stuff back, lady. Just leave it for somebody else to do.)

 Or the oft-referred-to-here commercial with the frizzy-haired blonde who, checking her sales receipt as she leaves the checkout stand, assumes the store has made a mistake. Does she ask the clerk if there was indeed an error as basic common courtesy would dictate? Hell no! She races out of the store, yelling to her husband to "Start the car! Start the car!", absolutely giddy in the belief that she has gotten away with screwing the store out of something. What a message that sends!

The prevailing attitude seems to be, if you're stupid enough to fall for whatever con I'm trying to put over on you, tough cooky. You deserve whatever you get. (And, frankly, I must admit there is merit in that belief.) The ubiquitous spam messages that flood cyberspace are not only aimed at those too naive or trusting to know they’re being preyed upon, but at those who know damned well that “the $10,000,000 award we talked about” was never talked about, or the “I need your help in getting $30,000,000 out of Iran” proposals are obviously illegal, but the spammers count upon the recipient’s greed.

Those few of us who were born in a time before mass media infiltrated every cell of our being can recall a time when we learned from our parents and relatives and friends, and those to whom we related on a person-to-person, face-to-face level. Now we live in an often sickening world of Ted Cruz, Fox News, and a legion of hate mongers and mean-spirited, rude, sub-humans interested only in furthering their own warped agendas. Being exposed to this uncivil, uncivilized donkey diarrhea every time we turn on the TV or read a newspaper or a magazine eventually affects even those of us who know better. And for those who are not old enough to remember a time when people were respectful of others, I shudder to think of what they will become.

 Why do we expect from others things we are ourselves not willing to give? 

Where, along the way, did the concept of making someone else feel good, or appreciated, without there being something in it for me disappear? I don't recall ever having received a bill for smiling or saying "hello" to a stranger. How did we become so selfishly insular? Rudeness breeds rudeness; incivility breeds incivility. Where did we ever get the idea that we should be treated with the courtesy and respect we are not, ourselves, willing to show others?

But you see, here I go again, despairing. I can do nothing at all about the lack of courtesy, respect, and common sense in others, but that does not mean I have to be like them or follow their lead. I don't, and won't, and fervently hope you might feel the same way. There is truth in the old saying "It's you and me against the world.” Maybe we should actively recruit others to join us? Oh, and thank you for reading this.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Monday, November 10, 2014

Cassandra and Me

I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology and identify strongly with some of it. I find the parallels between the prophetess Cassandra and myself, for example, to be downright eerie. Consider the uncanny similarities between us: Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, king of Troy. I am the son of Frank, factory worker of Rockford, Illinois. Both of us carry the gift of prophecy and the curse of those prophecies being believed.

A few more parallels should you not already be convinced: the god Apollo became smitten with Cassandra and gave her the gift of prophecy. I have, when younger, been the object of brief bouts of smitten-ness and received the gift of free drinks in bars and could instantly prophesize the outcome. When Cassandra rebuffed Apollo’s advances, Apollo was in something of a quandary: a gift once given by the gods cannot be taken away, just as a drink once given in a bar can’t be taken back even if the sender and recipient don’t get together. But Apollo was able to amend his gift to make it so that while Cassandra could still prophesies the future, no one would believe her.

And somehow…I’m not sure how, exactly…I acquired both the above-mentioned gift of prophecy and the curse of never being believed.

For literally years now I have been trying to convince scientists and anyone who would listen that wedding rings cause a wide range of medical problems. The proof is overwhelming and clearly laid out on television literally hundreds of times each day, but no one but I can see it! And what is this proof, you will undoubtedly ask, not believing me when I told you? Every single male shown in an ad for erectile dysfunction is wearing a wedding ring! Every. Single. One!!! (It is fascinating to note that gay men seem immune! Even though an increasing number of them wear wedding rings, have you ever seen an erectile dysfunction ad featuring gay men?…I rest my case!) The same is true of arthritis. Have you ever seen an arthritis ad where the victim was not wearing a wedding ring? I think not.

For years before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I prophesized that gays would be allowed to serve openly in the military…a fact vehemently and continually denied by the likes of such renowned military experts as Senator John McCain and vast numbers of the military hierarchy, who were absolutely convinced that opening the doors to acknowledged homosexuals would utterly destroy civilization as we know it.

Gays allowed to marry? I knew it was inevitable but stopped even mentioning it to avoid an avalanche of vehement denial. 

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the curse of not being believed is that, once something I’ve predicted comes true, the reaction is not “Amazing! You were right!” but a casual “oh, yeah, I knew it all along.” Those who screamed and shouted and dug deep trenches in the group with their heels as history dragged them along are suddenly absolutely silent. Has anyone…anyone…asked John McCain and the spittle-lipped naysayers if they regret their stupidity? Of course not. Scream and outrage immediately becomes “yeah, okay,” and the screamers are off on another rampage on something else that they will inevitably have to accept.

I do wish Cassandra were around today. I could use a little moral backup.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Remembering the Future



















My mind is nothing if not...uh..."untethered," and it far-too-frequently just wanders off from the path I've chosen for it. Such is the case today.

When I lived in L.A. and was with my partner, Ray, whenever we'd go out where there were jostling mobs of people, Ray would grab the back of my belt so we wouldn't get separated. So I invite you to do the same, here, so you don't get lost trying to follow me.

I find myself--as I have since I was a child--fascinated with pondering the imponderable. While it is admittedly rather pointless, it’s fun, every now and then, to just let your mind take a tiny molehill of thought and turn it into a mountain of wonder. The fact is, of course, that no matter how much time or effort we put into pondering questions which have no answers, absolutely nothing changes, and the universe is exactly the same when we stop pondering as it was before we started.

Being human, we are always seeking simplistic answers for infinitely complex questions. The mystery of time, which rules my existence, is always a rich source of speculation, and the relationship between past, present, and future...between then and now...is an endless source of wonder.  The subject lends itself to endless analogies, similes, and metaphors in attempting to explain it. One I use frequently is of time being a speeding train, on which we all ride facing backward. We catch each second of our life as if it were a telephone pole flashing past the train's window, and we no sooner see it than it is gone. The present lasts less than a nanosecond's nanosecond, and “Now” turns future to past. That every instant of our past was at one time our future is intriguing to contemplate.

And typical of my mind's workings, as I wrote the above (still holding on?) another analogy suddenly presented itself to replace that of the speeding train: Time as a zipper, with “Now” being the fastener that joins past and future. Unfortunately, the zipper only zips up, not down.

Time abounds in paradoxes. We've all seen movies and TV programs and read dumbed-down-for-the-layman articles detailing the flexibility of time; how it can move and bend and bow and turn into itself. But in the real life of humans, time is inflexible: it moves in only one direction and it does not stop or slow down at our command. 

While so many of us...me included...would like to travel back in time and change those things we so desperately wish we could change, logic dictates that were we able to do so, the “Now” from which we began our journey back in time would cease to exist, replaced by a new series of “Nows.” Which sets off all sorts of interesting speculation on alternate universes, an utterly fascinating topic in itself. 

And, when all is said and done, if you will allow me one more analogy, all this speculation, fun as it maybe, is not unlike being in a hamster cage in which no matter how fast our minds run, it really gets us nowhere.

So while we cannot know the future until it becomes the past, we can be free to contemplate it and do our best to manipulate our Now toward what we want our future memories to be.

Or, we can just sit back, not bother about contemplating anything at all and let time take its course and bring us whatever it may bring us. Given we really don't have that much of a choice, it's probably the most logical option. 

You can let go of my belt now.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Monday, November 03, 2014

Beyond Understanding

Please believe me when I say I sincerely do not understand how I have survived this long in a world that is all but incomprehensible to me. Technology. People. Instruction manuals. Myself.  All are and have always been great mysteries to me. Just when I think I might be getting a handle on something, something else will step in to totally contradict whatever I thought I had figured out.

Why do people do what they do, say what they say, believe what they believe? Is there no such thing as logic? How can they possibly be so willfully ignorant, or viciously cruel? It is true that, while we hate to admit that Man is an animal, he is…and a predatory one at that. Still, after thousands of years of struggle to rise above the other animals, we have not overcome our basest instincts. Why does it take horrendous events to draw us together and display those traits for which we have striven so long and hard? And why, after these events, do we quickly regress to our self-centered, selfish ways?

How can people so easily become the pawns of duplicitous, power-hungry, hate-and-fear mongering politicians, pundits, and zealots? How can we keep re-electing people to represent us who have proven time after time that the only interests they serve are their own? Why are humans so willing to simply accept whatever they’re told rather than think for themselves?

I am a Democrat. I always have been. Possibly because I was brought up during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but mainly, I think, simply because I sincerely believe that it is the government's duty to protect the people--and especially those who, for whatever reason, cannot protect themselves. Why does the Republican party seem totally devoted to obstructionism and negativity? I honestly cannot think of a single positive proposal they have made for the good of the majority of the citizens of our country. They do not smile, they sneer.

What perversity dictates that people devote intense fascination to things which really, in the overall scheme of things, are utterly inconsequential, and have not one whit of effect whatsoever on them personally or on their lives...while at exactly the same time refusing to give a minute's serious consideration to things which are vital to their very existence. They will stand on the street corner and smoke three cartons of cigarettes while utterly engrossed in deep conversation about Justin Bieber's tattoos. We go into the equivalent of national mourning when some celebrity dies, yet read of  thousands dying of hunger every single day with little or no reaction. More than 26,000 Americans die each year from influenza, yet four people with ebola send us running off in all directions, screaming in fear.

Grown men go absolutely berserk with excitement watching athletes running around throwing and catching balls while they themselves sit on barstools chugging beer and eating fried butter. ("We're Number One!" No, you're not. The athletes are Number One—you’re just fat and lazy.)

My incomprehension of course extends to myself. How can I possibly so frequently say and do such egregiously stupid things? Why do I seem incapable of thinking before I act or speak? I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to undo things which cannot be undone, with the result that I surely come across as an idiot to those aware of my gaffs, most of which could have been avoided had I thought first.  

The fact that I may be expecting much more from my fellow human beings…and definitely from myself…than is, well, logical, unfortunately does not stop them or me from expecting it. Strangely enough, given everything just said above, I think it’s called “optimism.”


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Commercially Speaking














I love TV commercials. One of my current favorites is, "Tell your doctor if you've been to a place where certain fungal infections are common." Like I'd know?

And I'm impressed by the number of commercials--I see at least a dozen every night--that say, "Ask your doctor if (whatever) is right for you." So I am supposed to take time away from whatever I'm doing to schedule an expensive doctor's appointment, for the sole purpose of asking, "Hey, doc, is Barf-Ex right for me?"

I delight in the ubiquitous Erectile Dysfunction commercials. I remember when it was just called  what it is: impotence. As a gay man, I find a certain reassurance in these commercials because obviously "E.D." affects only heterosexuals. I can't help but wonder, since the guys featured are always wearing a wedding ring, if perhaps their problem might lie in their having opted for the wrong sexual orientation.

I'm sorry that I don't see quite so many loan company ads as I used to, perhaps because it may finally have dawned on people that borrowing money not only does not resolve the problem of not having enough money, but that the money borrowed must be repaid with interest and therefore only adds one more bill to be paid.

I am deeply touched by the diligence with which advertisers adhere to the principle of Truth in Advertising. And right up there near the top is "Free Credit Report dot Com" which says you can go to their site and get your credit report absolutely free, and that's exactly what you can do. Apparently they just forgot, in the ad which lured you to their site in the first place, to mention that in order for the "Free" to kick in, you first have to pay out the nose to join something or other.

That so many commercials use exactly the same words and phrases is no coincidence. Though little known outside advertising circles, all advertisers rely heavily upon the Dictionary of Advertising Terms. A few of them follow, for your edification.

"Piled High!" means you can slip it under a closed door.

"Emerging science suggests" means they don't have a shred of actual proof of whatever they're claiming.

"New and Improved!" means they have added half a teaspoon of something to the 500 gallon vats from which the product is taken.

"For Well-Qualified Buyers" means you don't qualify.

"You must call within the next five minutes" means you can call whenever you want, day or night, and you'll still get it.

"Strict limit of 5 per customer" means if you are stupid enough to want 3,000 of the things they'll be delighted to sell them to you.

"Not sold in stores" means that no store was willing to carry it.

"Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity" means it comes with a worthless piece of paper with some words on it.

"Money Back Guarantee" means you're welcome to send it back at your own expense and see if it reaches the company before it goes bankrupt.

"Satisfied customers" means people who did not demand their money back.

Well, it's time for another richly rewarding evening of commercials. I just wish they'd stop trying to insert those annoying "programs" between them.


 Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Little Boxes

I am a hoarder of memories. I keep them all in little boxes stored in a special Closet of Time in the attic of my mind. I carefully pack the good/happy memories in sturdy boxes wrapped in  special mental wrapping paper tied with bows, the elaborateness of the paper and bows indicating their relative value. The unpleasant/painful memories are hastily thrown into plain cardboard boxes with the flaps overlapped to close them. Unfortunately, they keep popping open unexpectedly and for no apparent reason other than to remind me…unnecessarily…of my flaws and insecurities. There are also a great many more-securely closed boxes containing snippets of memory…distinct incidents from my life which for some reason have had some indirect influence on my life.

I know exactly what is in each of the gift-wrapped boxes: holidays and family and lovers and vacations and friends and good movies and good books and laughter. I don’t need to open them to know exactly what pleasures they hold. And, to be honest, I deliberately avoid opening them because I know that to do so would force me to acknowledge that the memories they hold are just that…memories…and cannot be relived.

The plain, securely closed boxes hold a vast assortment of random memories which obviously if not specifically affected my life, such as shopping for a throw-rug with my mother while very young and, in response to being asked which of two possibilities I preferred, refusing to say for fear of hurting the feelings of the other; of being in my beloved Aunt Thyra’s kitchen and, on seeing a bunch of bananas and wanting one, being too painfully shy to ask; of leaving a May Basket at the doorstep of a little girl classmate…second grade, as I recall…on whom I had one of the very few (and fleeting) “normal” crushes of my life: of riding my bike home down the hill from Harry Morris school….

It truly disturbs me to realize that it is the flimsily-closed cardboard-box memories which seem to vastly outnumber the others. I think it says more about my personality than I would prefer to have known. They contain vivid, painfully sharp-edged memories of stupid mistakes, unintentionally hurtful things I’ve done or said, missed opportunities, and regrets. Whenever they pop open, they are like reopened wounds, and the pain they cause is very real.

Walking down the street with my dad with a bag of candy he’d bought me and not offering him a piece; forgetting the name of a young man with whom I’d been to bed two nights before when I ran into him on the street with a friend and being unable to introduce them by name; making my mother cry by snapping at her while returning from New Orleans while I was in the Navcads. (And even in the relating the contents of this one box, other, vastly larger and more painful boxes spring open—not telling the doctors to stop all attempts to prolong her life when she and I both knew it was hopeless, and after I’d promised her that I would do so.) I would give anything to go back in time and NOT do/say these things, but I cannot.

We all, I suspect, whether we acknowledge—or are even aware of—it or not, have our own little Closet of Time filled with our own assorted boxes of memories. But it is the ability to acknowledge their existence which makes a huge difference in the course of our lives.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).